Strategic Human Capital Insights

Change Management: 2 Key Change Concepts That Can Be Game Changers

Is there really a difference in the types of change confronting us now? 

Change is all around us.  The word 'Change' has been so overused, we can no longer determine its precise meaning.  For example, a moderate change in process is far different from a change of epic proportions.  The same word, ‘change’, has significantly different meanings, outcomes and consequences.

Let’s further develop key change management terminology from our earlier blog, where ‘continuous change’ and ‘discontinuous change’ were defined. 


Let’s extend these concepts. 

  1.   ‘Change by Degree’ (gradual, evolving):  Under the ‘continuous change’ concept, we reference the word ‘evolving’.  Now let’s take that concept and add in ‘change by degree’.  Change by degree is part of the ‘continuous change’ process where change is still recognizable from its earlier form.  However, there is a tipping point, when ‘change by degree’ is no longer a valid representation of the current state.  And, if we are comfortable with the concept of ‘continuous change’ we may very easily miss the point when ‘change by degree’ has morphed into something new.
  1.   ‘Change in Kind’  (significantly departure, a new reality):  That something new, represents a significant departure from the earlier form, to the point where that earlier form is no longer recognizable.  At that point, change has become a ‘change in kind’. We are now in a new reality. So what’s the issue if we miss recognizing the tipping point?   We get so comfortable with ‘change by degree’ that we fail to realize the need to completely changethe way we do things to both align with and fit into the new reality.  The old rules and ways no longer apply.  We mistakenly treat this new reality as if it’s just an extension of the old state. And there’s the problem. 

Think about your experience when ‘change by degree’ has been replaced by ‘change in kind’.  It happens in both your work and personal lives.  No one is immune from change since it’s happening all around us.  In the work place, it could be a change from commission-based sales to fee-based account management.  On a personal level, it could be the arrival of a baby or the death of a key central family figure.

We must always be mindful of the real scope of change and deal with it accordingly. It’s too easy to misread or deny change. An example of this is the story of the frog in the pot. 

The frog, a cold-blooded animal, adapts to hot and cold elements in its environment.  If you put the frog into a pot of cold water, and begin to heat the water slowly and gradually, the frog will slowly adapt to the heating water – not recognizing that, the water has changed from warm to boiling. The boiling water, the new reality, is now a hostile environment.   By slow adaptation, the frog, doesn’t realize the water has changed from a ‘change by degree’ (warm) to a ‘change in kind’ (boiling).  In the end, slow adaptation will cause the frog to perish.

Only we can control our observations of and reactions to change and how we manage change.  We must recognize the signposts telling us when we have moved from ‘change by degree’ to ‘change in kind’. 

Be mindful - don’t go the way of the frog in the pot!

We invite you to schedule a needs assessment if you or your company are looking for innovative and proven ways to manage change. 

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Topics: Change Management

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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